As you’ve known already, the emerging Web 3.0 is all about turning information into data, processing the data to be knowledge and applying the knowledge to make our life better and easier. Let’s put another fact into the mix, there are studies show that 80% the data/information we collected, in business or personal, contains spatial information. I guess that’s why the web map giant Google proudly claimed both terms “Web 3.0″ and “GeoWeb”. Now, the question is, are we (or is Google) really ready for Web 3.0 GeoWeb?
Before answering that question, let’s see if we are capable of handling all the data. In a very simple way, all data is about 4WH (What, Who, When, Where and How) . The 4WH is the foundation of all knowledge as well. In the past several decades IT has spent much of the efforts and resources to fine tune RDBMS for handling data. The most representative technology is data warehouse, which usng dimensional modeling to look/search/analyze data in many angles (dimensions). However, if you know something about data warehouse, you’d find out that regardless how many dimensions created to mining the data, there are all variations of What, Who and When. The “where” part is simply another “what”. Now you know why people are so craze about Google Map and 90% of mashups are web map based. That’s because the “where” part of information is not just another piece of data in the SQL where clause anymore. It’s becoming meaningful to be its true value on the map. Does that mean my answer is, we are ready for Web 3.0 GeoWeb. Wrong, we are not ready until we can go beyond visualizing the “where” data, the spatial information.
What is spatial information? If your answer is “location”, then you are 95% wrong.
Let me throw in something here so that you can have a peek on the magnitude of spatial information. Streets, the most familiar entities on a web map. What is street data in a database? There are data represent segments of curved line or polygon can be visualized, they are data can help drawing the line/polygon on the right place on the map, they are data define how those lines/polygons connected, or how certain lines are over another lines (bridge overheads), they are symbols and annotations that tell you what the streets are, they are more complex data structures represents houses, buildings, parks, lakes, etc. This list can go on an on. And, each single item mentioned here can be modified individually, while maintaining the logic how it relates to other data (intersection, connection, ramp, overhead, one-way, two-way, etc). If you are a data architect or a DBA, you mind must be spinning hard to think how those could be modeled and managed. You must be thinking what I’m thinking, “it’s hard”. What I can tell you is that street network is pretty much considered one simple type of spatial data. How about electric grid, gas lines, water pipes and so on. So, what is spatial information? You got the idea.
You might ask, how to process and analyze the spatial information? Now we are getting somewhere.
It takes a Spatial Information Management (SIM) platform and its services. If you are enterprise person, you must know the three letter soup very well, ERP to manage resource, CRM to manage customer relationships, SCM to manage supply chain, EAM to manage assets, PDM to manage product data, PLM to manage product lifecycle, and now SIM is to enable spatial services and manage spatial information, which help extending all other three-letter enterprise system into true spatial dimension. We can’t move pass the location visualization phase (as Google Map does) into Web 3.0 without SIM. (of cause, spatial information is only a small portion of all information available. So, long way to go with Web 3.0)
A SIM (spatial information managment) platform contains solutions, services, tools, data management and programming technologies, just like the ERP crowd. If you’ve heard of the technology called GIS (geographic information system), then you are close enough to know a bit about SIM. GIS provides all the tools and technologies to support the SIM platform. For example, GeoDatabase, which can be built on top of traditional RDBMS, is for managing the spatial information I mentioned earlier. If you are data architect or DBA, no worry now.
GeoDatabase management handles all the complexity for you. Another one, GeoProcess, which help processing those spatial data by applying whatever scientific or math stuffs those Ph.Ds came up with. It’s all transparent to us IT folks. All we need to do is to use the common IT technologies, programing, web services, SOA, .Net, J2EE, etc. to make IT services spatial rich and add long missed spatial enabled value to business.
It’s time now the geo spatial technology about to take off in both broader enterprise and web space because of the maturity of SIM (spatial information management) platform. I think all the cool kids around the blocks should take some serious looks at it and go beyond merely be proud of putting push-pin on a giant web map.